The New Monarchs
3 of 5 stars
The Postal Service has not released a full album since 2003, and the world has been deprived of its emo-electronic brilliance ever since. But two new superheroes are emerging from the snowy terrain of Minnesota. Sean Hogan and Taylor Nelson are here to fill the void left by The Postal Service. They are The New Monarchs.
After a short stint in a high school band, the two northerners regrouped after college and emerged with a more electronic sound. They’ve since established themselves within Minnesota’s thriving electronic music scene. Now, after recently signing with indie label Soupbowl Records, they’ve released their debut album, Blueprints.
Blueprints is a mix of trance-like ballads and electric dance rhythms subdued by heavy lyrics. Though often compared to The Postal Service, The New Monarchs have a more aggressive electric sound, with heavier beats and a prevalence of raw guitar riffs, making them sound like The Postal Service on steroids. The vague, fatalistic and heartsick lyrics overlaying the electronic sound on Blueprints create a tricky mixture that results in both hits and misses.
The disc starts off strong with “Across Your Hands,” a dancy tune with a steady pulse and soaring guitar. The lyrics aren’t too depressing, straying from the usual themes of lovesick loneliness and focusing instead on stage fright. Hogan pleads, “Take these away / all my insecurities / and teach me to live / like I saw on the screen.”
“Kiss Me At The Gate” succeeds as a soft, meditative trance track. Definitely somber, its slow, steady beat and droning keyboard are mesmerizing and relentless. The boys sing in harmonic synchronization until the end, when Hogan breaks out wailing.
The vocals lose their magic in “Windows Down,” where a mediocre melody and lackluster beat are overpowered by whiny lyrics. This track boasts the album’s most angry and aggressive accompaniment, and Hogan changes his tone to a nasal wail to keep up with the intensity. However, this tone seems out of place, more suited to punk rock than electronic.
Hogan and Taylor cap their album off with the impressive 11-minute “Hold Me Quick (I Can’t Stop).” The melody is massive and keeps the mammoth track from ever sounding redundant. The song never falls stagnant and continually escalates in energy. The break at the seven-minute mark signals a transition into a raw dance beat, an entirely new melody and a pace that keeps accelerating until the end of the track.
Too sad for pump-up music, the engaging rhythms are good for some meditative moments and a few tracks shine as danceable delights. The New Monarchs might not be able to dethrone The Postal Service, but with Blueprints they announce their arrival in the emo-electric scene.